If you’re an avid scuba diver, you know that in addition to having the right gear and optimal weather conditions, you also need an ideal locale. Typically, you want to see diverse wildlife and landscapes underwater. While most people know that places like the Caribbean or even Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are perfect for spotting colorful creatures, these aren’t the only options that can give you an exceptional scuba diving experience. The next time you’re planning a trip that will include scuba diving excursions, consider these five destinations.
Southeast Asia isn’t an immediate thought for scuba divers, but the island nation of Sri Lanka is perfect for just this activity. The country is known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean for a reason. First, there are numerous dive spots along the country’s coastline. And in addition to the multitude of coral and fish species you can find, the waters are also home to a large number of shipwrecks. Sri Lanka’s diving options are ideal for beginners.
Many of their dive sites don’t require that you hold a license, and their diving schools and tour groups will allow you to rent equipment. It’s important to note that because Sri Lanka is an island nation, you should time your trip to avoid the monsoon season. Keep in mind that each side of the island experiences the season at different times of the year.
American Samoa (United States)
It’s easy to understand why many people might assume that American Samoa is just one island, but it’s not. In reality, the United States commonwealth is an archipelago comprising five islands and two coral atolls. The atolls are perfect for scuba divers because they’re home to around 950 fish species and 250 species of coral. However, this island chain is best left to experienced divers because there isn’t much of a formal diving tourism business there.
First, many of the best diving spots like Ofu are difficult to travel to because of limited infrastructure. Getting to Ofu requires multiple transfers. Once you arrive, you still need to bring your own gear as you will only be able to rent tanks. It’s also important to remember that American Samoa is fairly conservative. So, diving suits are recommended over bikinis or swim trunks unless you want to offend the locals.
Easter Island (Chile)
This beautiful island is best known for its Moai statues, but this Chilean island is also a hidden gem for scuba diving. Both beginners and experienced divers can find plenty of diving spots off the island. Depending on where you dive, you’ll be greeted by coral reefs, underwater caves, and countless exotic fish. However, if you do have a PADI license, you’ll be able to dive in more places than those who don’t.
For example, only licensed PADI divers have clearance to dive in the Hanga Roa Bay to view the submerged Moai statue recreation that sits 20 meters below the water. Easter Island has four official diving centers, and you can book diving excursions at various times throughout the day.
The South Sandwich & South Georgia Islands (United Kingdom)
The South Sandwich Islands are situated between South America and Antarctica and are often grouped in with the South Georgia islands. Both island groups are considered British overseas territories. While the islands sit in the Atlantic Ocean, they are classified as Sub-Antarctic and routinely experience harsh weather. Of the two, the South Sandwich islands are extremely remote and are typically inhabited by only a small British government contingency and science research groups.
Only the most experienced divers should attempt to dive off the coast of these island chains. Travelers can access the island only by boat as there are no flights in or out of the island. Unless you have a personal yacht, most people take a polar cruise to either get close to the island or actually stop off here. The biggest draw for these islands is their proximity to Antarctica along with the 3 million penguins and five seal species that live on the South Sandwich Islands. The best way to visit or plan a diving excursion is through a tour group. Divers will need to bring all of their own equipment — including tanks — as there is no tourism infrastructure on the island.
Truk Lagoon (Micronesia)
Truk Lagoon — also known as Chuuk — is a massive atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia. Not only is it home to beautiful wildlife, but it’s also the site of a major World War II shipwreck. The lagoon is the exact location where Operation Hailstone took place in 1944. U.S. forces launched a massive air fight and bombardment against Japanese air and sea forces. The unexpected result was the creation of over 50 wreck diving sites that are still heavily visited today.
Truk Lagoon is perfect for all skill levels, even the wreck sites. Some wrecks are in shallow waters and are ideal for beginners. Meanwhile, other wrecks are considered multilevel and are best suited for experienced divers who are comfortable at lower depths.
Whether you decide to visit some of the lesser-known diving sites on this list or stick to the more familiar spots, it’s important to do your research in advance. Some sites require certification or that you bring your own gear. Be sure to plan accordingly so that you have the ultimate diving experience no matter where you go.